The Pernicious Myth of Police and the “Split-Second Decision”

We must have leaders willing to support those who are tasked with making split second decisions that may mean the difference between life or death.

Law Enforcement Loyalty PAC

Apologists for U.S. police often allude to cops having to make “split second decisions,” by which they mean deciding whether to shoot people. This is wrong. In my next post I will explain why if police do their job properly they should never have to fire a gun at anyone or anything. Today I want to dismiss the notion that anybody would reasonably want or ask typical law enforcement officers to make split-second decisions to do anything that could kill someone.

Nobody should be making split-second decisions to use lethal force. Certainly not police! Cops are not trained to military levels of competence with weapons and rules of engagement. They aren’t operating in a designated war zone. Police are mediocre people: prerequisites for the job are only mediocre IQs and mediocre performance at mediocre two- or four-year schools. Police training is mediocre, and the practical use of lethal force is not their primary job.

So have we really handed over half a million full-time cops a badge, a gun, and a license to make split-second decisions to shoot people? And if a cop doesn’t make the right split-second decision? C’est la vie; live and learn. Well, the people cops kill don’t get to live. But what’s the saying,

Better that 20 citizens die than one law enforcement officer not complete his shift?

That’s right: Roughly 50 American cops die in the line of duty each year “as a result of felonious acts.” In contrast, American police use their firearms to kill about 1,000 people each year (that’s not all killings, only those police kill by shooting).

Wholly unscientific rules, restrictions and mandates

Dr. Nathan Sneddon, my brother-in-law, shared the following illumination of arguments made by Dr. Scott Atlas:

In March of 2020, there was very little we knew about COVID-19 including its mortality rate and how it can and cannot be spread. We knew it was associated with Acute Respiratory Stress Syndrome and this is generally how COVID becomes lethal. But we knew very little more about it beyond that.

However, based on empiric evidence, we know much more now. Dr. Atlas’s summary of “wholly unscientific rules, restrictions and mandates” include:

  1. Closures of businesses
  2. Closures of in-person schools
  3. Mobility restrictions
  4. Curfews
  5. Quarantines
  6. Limits on group gatherings
  7. Mask mandates

Dr. Atlas summarizes how these either are not based in science or have not prevented the spread of COVID-19:

  1. Bendavid et. al. demonstrated that mandatory stay-at-home and business closures were associated with “no significant benefit on case growth”: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7883103/
  2. “Younger people have little risk from this infection” (case fatality rate is essentially zero for anyone under age 40 and only minimally beyond zero for pages 40-50): https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73777-8
  3. “Young children are less likely to transmit COVID.”  Posfay-Barbe et. al. demonstrated that children actually acquire COVID from adults rather than transmitting it to adults: https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/146/2/e2020004879
  4. NIH states: “When consistent distances is not possible, face coverings may further reduce the spread of infections droplets from individuals with SARS-CoV-2 infection to others.” 
  5. A randomized controlled study from Denmark by Bundgaard et. al. showed that widespread mask usage has only minimal impact on COVID infection rate: https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/m20-6817
  6. The WHO prior to Oct 2020 stated that “the widespread use of masks by healthy people in the community setting is not yet supported by high quality or direct scientific evidence and there are potential benefits and harms to consider.”